Courtney Snyder, MD
Have you ever tried so hard to solve a problem, that you couldn't see the answer right in front of you?
I had that experience after a long period of pursuing health challenges for my daughter and me. We'd made good progress and with my new found energy and focus, I quickly shifted my attention to something else to relentlessly work on - my career. I knew I didn't I want to return to the kind of psychiatric practice I had previously. I couldn't imagine an alternative, despite just having spent a good part of a decade immersed in the relationship between nutrition, the gut-brain connection, and autoimmunity.
To give myself a mental break from problem solving, I read, "EAT, PRAY, LOVE". I was only 8 years behind. There were many things I loved about that book, but none more than the moment Elizabeth Gilbert asks for a sign and gets one. This was something I'd never considered.
After dropping my daughter off at school one morning, I drove near the Ohio River. Irritated with my persistent goal directed thoughts, I wondered, "If Liz can ask for a sign and get one, ...why can't I? So after a lifetime of believing I somehow controlled things, I asked (to whom I didn't consider - G-d, the universe, my soul, the air) "Please,...just give me a sign." Within seconds, a large heron flew over the hood of my car.
Knowing a sign has presented itself and knowing what it means are two very different things. I read about herons. There were many interpretations - some conflicting. All that mattered, however, was the one that connected with me - the heron's ability to stand extremely still. When not flying (and assisting in divine intervention) it just stands.... without moving.....seemingly forever. No impatience. No 'making things happen'. No sticking it's head hastily in water searching around for fish. The heron simply waits for the right moment. Then and only then, does it move quickly and seize that moment.
The image of a motionless heron allowed me to finally call off all attempts to figure out and solve my problem. Instead, I waited...and waited. Eventually I could see that what I'd been living and learning while away from psychiatry was exactly what I needed to bring to my work. My life which had been an uphill push soon began to unfold more effortlessly. I still need that image of the heron to remind me to stop and trust that the answers will come.
I have no doubt that letting go and choosing stillness lowers my stress (and stress hormones) and has a positive impact on my health. This mind shift doesn't require a belief as much as acceptance, humility and a little practice. For me it also required being open to an event and making meaning of it. If you're seeking answers in your own life, consider staying open to your signs however they present themselves.
During a difficult time, Paul McCartney's mother, who died when he was 14, came to him in a dream. Her name was Mary and she inspired the lyric.....
"When I find myself in times of trouble, Mother Mary comes to me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be....
There will be an answer,...
let it be"
I'm a conventionally trained child, adolescent and adult psychiatrist. My current approach to health is both holistic (pertaining to the whole person) and functional (addressing the root causes of illness). I write this blog to share what I've learned.